Pity the Utah Utes who did something no other major college football team did this year: go undefeated. The Utes finished the season at 13-0, rolling over the Crimson Tide 31-17 in the Sugar Bowl. Meanwhile, once beaten Florida knocked off now twice beaten Oklahoma, 24-14 in the Bowl Championship Series game, winning the coveted national title game.
Inasmuch as the Utes proclaimed themselves the top team in the nation following their win over Alabama, pollsters and prognosticators have gone with the Florida Gators. Once again, major college football has crowned a national champion; once again the controversy over who really is the best team in the land remains just that: a controversy.
The Bowl Games Are In Control
Unlike other levels of college football, the bowl games control the post season. Thus, teams who finish the regular season and, if applicable, their conference championship game have only one more game to play before their season ends. For the Football Championship Series (FCS) which used to be called Division 1-AA, the top sixteen teams in the country compete in a four week extravaganza which eventually yields an indisputable national champion.
So why can’t the Bowl Championship Series (BCS, formerly 1-A) have the same arrangement?
Well, college presidents exercise veto power over how the post season is set up and have long used the excuse that students are taking or preparing for exams during the month of December, making a post season unpractical. Oddly, all other levels of college football have their schools holding exams during the month of December, but their schools are able to compete.
Let’s get real about it: exams have nothing to do with the argument.
Millions of Dollars Paid Out, Pay Participation or Not
Instead, lucrative bowl contracts have college presidents sticking with a time honored system. These days, there are 119 BCS schools with 34 bowls. That means that 68 schools have a shot at participating in a post season bowl game with pay outs ranging from $300,000 to seventeen million dollars per team. Granted, in some arrangements leagues pool the pay outs, but that only means that Indiana gets the same money as Ohio State each year even when they don’t make it to a bowl.
That means that Big Ten schools get millions of dollars each and every bowl season, monies which can be added to athletic department coffers.
Solutions For An Effective Change
I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how this whole post season controversy can be amicably ended and have come to the conclusion that a system can be established where everyone is happy, at least the eight schools that I would include in a post season tournament.
Specifically, I believe the following could be implemented to allow major college football crown a real champion year in and year out without upsetting college presidents and without destroying the bowl season:
A Real Post Season Football Tournament
The top eight teams for the year (via the current BCS calculation method) would be invited to compete post season. Games would begin on New Year’s Day and conclude two weeks later with the national championship game. Most colleges don’t return to school from winter break until after the middle of the month, but for those returning early there won’t be any exams to get in the way.
Games would be held at a neutral location as I can’t imagine Wisconsin hosting a game in January or in December for that matter. I would allow the Rose, Cotton, Sugar, Fiesta and Orange Bowl to host the first four games with the bowls rotating each year to host the national championship game. The two semifinal games could be held at some warm weather location, perhaps giving incentive to the Gator Bowl or other high ranking bowl to host the games.
While the eight game championship series is taking place, the remaining bowls can still be played, but not on the same date as the BCS tournament. That way, fans from lower polling or lower finishing (but winning) schools would still be able to travel and the bowls would still rake in some cash. Host cities would still pull be able to pull in much needed revenue. My only requirement is that the bowl season be completed before the semifinal games were to begin.
No Exams To Get In The Way
With this set up, exams no longer become an excuse while the BCS tournament would crown a real champion. The remaining teams would still get their bowl game and everyone would be happy.
Of course the Utes as well as USC Trojans and Texas Longhorns won’t be satisfied this year, which is unfortunate. Therefore, having some sort of sensible post season arrangement in place makes sense, one that won’t interfere with the academic pursuits of students while allowing the game to crown an uncontested national champion.
Now to the Off Season
This concludes SayCampusLife’s coverage of the 2008 college football season. I appreciate your visits and I look forward to bringing next season’s news to you beginning in early August.